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‘Devastation’ as autistic students expelled from Vic state schools: Amaze responds


Posted on 28 August 2017 under News

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A report by the Victorian Ombudsman makes for distressing reading.

The report, tabled in parliament on Monday, revealed more than 31 per cent of students expelled in 2016 have a disability or mental health issue.

One of the cases profiled in the report was that of Daniel.

At just seven years of age, AAP reports, Daniel was expelled from his local state school.

It was the third school he had attended since prep.

Daniel is autistic, has ADHD, anxiety and depression and these conditions, according to the report, make him more likely to be expelled.

“He was expelled for consistently behaving in an unproductive manner,” his father told Victoria’s Ombudsman as part of an investigation into state school expulsions.

“He was diagnosed with severe behaviour disorder so he was basically expelled for his condition.”

Expulsion stats make for distressing reading.

The Ombudsman’s report found Daniel is not alone.

Matthew, who is also autistic and has ADHD became anxious and fearful to go to school after being expelled in year 2.

‘This is not your place anymore’

“Imagine what that does to a seven-year-old who has never been to any other school, who has a severe problem with change, who is told from one minute to the next ‘this is not your place anymore’ … he was devastated,” his mother said.

It’s been found the disruptive behaviour of children in classrooms is frequently rooted in trauma, disability or mental health issues and that early intervention is vital in overcoming these issues.

“The investment not made in supporting schools to deal with this behaviour will almost inevitably require a vastly greater investment later,” Ombudsman Deborah Glass said.

The report made eight recommendations, including limiting expulsions for students under the age of eight, all of which have been supported by the Government.

The State Government in response announced a $5.9 million program to help students with behavioural issues avoid expulsion.

“We’re acting decisively to implement the Ombudsman’s recommendations, and support principals, teachers and students,” Education Minister James Merlino said.

The report follows the recent controversy created by One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson, who told parliament students with autism should be removed from mainstream classrooms.

“A single expulsion is one too many and simply should not happen,” Amaze CEO Fiona Sharkie says.

Education Minister supports recommendations.

“Almost all autistic students face some sort of restriction through their education – we need to address this through embracing inclusion in our schools.

“There is great value to all children when our classrooms reflect the true diversity of our community.

“Amaze believes that all autistic students should have access to an inclusive education system that welcomes diversity, meets their needs and enables them to fully participate and contribute: socially, emotionally and academically.

“There are countless reports and global evidence that overwhelmingly point to the benefits of mainstream schooling for autistic students, and these benefits are not just for the autistic students, but for all students.

We all have differences and need to be supported accordingly

“We know diversity is good and, after all, schools are a microcosm of our broader society. We all have differences and we all need to be supported accordingly.”

The educational outcomes of autistic students are poor compared to other students with disability.

One in three autistic students only achieve Year 10 or less, even though there is clear evidence the students want to be in schools and ultimately get a job.

Reports show funding and support in schools has been inadequate for autistic students.

We know diversity is good.

“We do see amazing results in mainstream schools where principals and teachers are working really hard and have learned how to better support autistic students. It can happen,” Amaze’s CEO says.

“We need to start by fully equipping teachers and principals through their training so they have the skills to work with all students with disability, including autism, from the get-go.”

Additional funding for autistic students is available through the Program for Students with Disability (PSD), however a recent review of the PSD identified that the existing criteria for this additional support was overly restrictive.

Amaze has been advocating for a shift in the way extra support is administered for students in Victoria – away from the current restrictive criteria to a model based on functional assessment.

Too often students are missing out on extra support because they do not meet the inflexible criteria and we continue to lobby government to act on all the recommendations in the recent Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) Review – including changing the criteria for extra support to a functional based model.

VICTORIAN STATE SCHOOL EXPULSION STATISTICS, 2016:

* 278 expulsions (201 in 2015, 158 in 2014, a 75 per cent rise)

* 221 male, 57 female

* 232 high school, 43 primary school

* More than 31 per cent have a disability or mental illness

* At least 15 students were in out-of-home care

* At least 14 students were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander

* About 60 per cent have challenging home lives

* 72 cases of expulsion linked to drugs

SOURCE: VICTORIAN OMBUDSMAN